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What Is a Peacock Vase?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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A peacock vase is an open contain with a peacock motif used to hold flowers. Its function is purely aesthetic in nature. Peacock vases tend to be made of glass and vary in cost depending on the maker and the vase’s age.

The peacock is a male peafowl, a bird native to India and Myanmar, also called Burma, that is known for its extravagant plumage. While the female is plain, the male has developed long blue-green tail feathers with what appears to be eyes near their tips. The plumage is used to attract females. Most peafowl were bred in captivity in the sub-continent and later across the world, though a few are known to have broken free and reintroduced themselves into the wild.

Ancient India, Rome and China created myths about peacocks. The Romans linked them to Juno, known to the Greeks as Hera. Peacocks came to be linked to eternal life by early Christians and, along with the phoenix, to resurrection. The bird entered the Western conscience in the 19th century when it was included in pieces of art and literature by the likes of William Morris and Oscar Wilde. It reached its apogee with James Abbott McNeil Whistler’s Peacock Room.

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Amongst this growing interest in Asian art and peacocks in particular, Louis Comfort Tiffany created the first peacock vase in 1896. Tiffany combined Syrian glass-blowing techniques with his own artistic styling to create a vase that appeared to be made from glass feathers replete with their pseudo-eyes. It is the Syrian technique that gives the glass its iridescence. The first peacock vase is now stored in the Chrysler museum.

Tiffany’s first peacock vase was a subtle piece. Subsequent variations on the peacock vase either seek to continue the subtlety, by changing the form and shape of the vase, or seek to use more of the peacock. The subtle variations tend to play on the theme of twisting and interlocking peacock feathers with the vase being a single piece of blown glass. They tend to also use blue and green colors, though this, too, can be varied.

Many modern peacock vases now display an entire peacock on the side of the glass. These tend to be additions to the main vase body done by shaping and attaching hot glass models. As a consequence, these vases are cheaper and easier to manufacture, but lose much of the allure found in Tiffany’s original.

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